A Reflection for November 1, 2021
With Sighs and Hope and Assurance in God
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to God’s purpose. (Romans 18:26-28)
If you’re like me, the past eighteen months have been a pandemic season which has challenged and stretched us beyond what we ever thought possible. Of course, there are many situations and events in our lives which do this as well – death, life-threatening illness, natural disasters, community tragedies and on. These are gut-wrenching events which cause us to question the meaning of our lives and our relationships, which devastate our reality and the perception of assurance and security in our lives.
However, this pandemic season has seemed to combine all these aspect for well over a year – challenging us as individuals and in community. We have yo-yoed from dismay to hope of an end in sight, back to worry and fear, back to hope, and back to despair again. We have dealt with the requirements for the health and good of all by masking, distancing, not gathering in person, zooming and vaccinating. Has there ever been a time in recent history when we needed more the global intervention of the Spirit which hears the groans of our hearts when our sighs have no words left? We deeply need this assurance that God is with us bringing all together for good.
Most of the time, at least in my experience, we operate assuming we know what the future holds for us. We know that disaster may happen at any time, yet we live with a sense of security and assurance that life will continue on close to what we already know. Even disasters have some sense of assurance in them. For instance, when my mother was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lymphoma, she commented, “Well, at least I know what I will die of!” Though she/we never wanted that diagnosis for her, at least she felt an assurance that she knew what the future probably would hold for her.
This pandemic is different. Right now, we have no idea what the future holds. Everything we lived with, almost every security and assurance we held about how the world and how our lives work, are called into question. We have been isolated far more than we ever imagined. We have learned (video and zoom conferencing and worship, vaccinations, working at a distance) more than we wanted to learn and, for the most part, have prevailed, survived and even thrived. Still, we don’t know much of anything about what we can expect for the future. This is daunting, and easily overwhelming and dismaying.
In a listening session with the new president of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, Rev. Dr. Javier Viera, he was asked how he can lead with confidence in these unsure, insecure times. His response has influenced my perspective about these unsure times. He replied (my paraphrase), “I don’t know if I can lead with confidence about what to expect, exactly. I do know that I can lead with confidence in the future – that there is a future – even when we don’t know what it will look like.”
I have stopped seeking assurance and security in what the future will look like (well, mostly have stopped). Instead, I am leading and serving with confidence in the future that is God’s future. I can place my confidence in God, who hears our sighs and understands, who searches our hearts and knows our needs and hopes, and who works all things (yes, ALL things) together for good. May we all live and serve and join together as God’s people in Christ, assured in the God who is present and weaving our lives into the future for good, for hope, for healing, for reconciliation, for grace and blessing.
Spirit God, hear our sighs, the groaning of our world, the hopes of our hearts, the needs of the marginalized, the dreams of who we can be as we follow Christ in our living. Thank you for weaving us together into your future of grace and justice, of promise and blessing. And on this All-Saint’s Day, we give thanks for the saints who have lived in your assurance and hope and from whom we can learn how to trust, and how we can serve you whole-heartedly. We pray in the name of the One who taught us how to live, Jesus Christ. Amen and Amen.